After hearing rave reviews from various team members and other people that had been Bodega Hopping with Lanzarote Active Club, anticipation levels were certainly high! We expected big things from the excursion, but how good could a wine tour really be? Surely there couldn’t be that much to learn about wine … Well if you’ve never been before like us, you are certainly in for a fun day of drinking, sight-seeing and interesting information!
We were picked up from Sands Beach Resort just after 9am by our guide for the day, Michele, or as we came to know him, Mike. At first we mistook him for Spanish, but it turned out he was an Italian with excellent Spanish and English. We couldn’t have asked for a friendlier, more informative or interesting guide! We realised he was friendly after about two minutes into the car journey as the conversation was flowing, but as the day continued he showed just how knowledgeable he was about the island, the wines and wine growing process in Lanzarote. He was like a walking talking encyclopedia of wine growing knowledge!
We were driven to Playa Blanca to collect more members of the tour in a Land Rover Defender, which really added to the feel of exploration and adventure. From there we continued to the first Bodega, Bodegas Rubicón, in the La Geria region past Yaiza and Uga. This Bodega is located in a fantastic old building overlooking the incredible Timanfaya National Park. Mike explained to us it was once owned by a rich family which is shown by certain features in the home area such as wooden beams across the ceiling. There are no large trees in Lanzarote so this wood would have been imported at great expense. The building certainly looked very grand, and had been maintained in a beautiful condition. It was acquired in 1979 by a wine lover named Don Germán who wished to continue the fine wine making tradition of this winery but bring it into the modern era, by modernising the winemaking process.
Outside the building is surrounded by vineyards, but not in the traditional sense. These vineyards are far different from those located in places like Italy, France and Spain. Mike talked in great detail and with a lot of passion about the unique wine growing techniques used in Lanzarote by places such as this one to overcome the extreme conditions of the island. By using the tiny particles of volcanic rock spread over much of Lanzarote to surround the grape vines, the wine growers are able to overcome the lack of rainfall and use the conditions to their advantage.
Due to the year round sun and warm climate, wine growing can continue more or less uninterrupted. In addition the grape vines found in Lanzarote have not had to be combined with other varieties, as vine destroying parasites cannot survive the dry conditions. Due to this reason Lanzarote is one of the only places in the world where this variety of grape vine grows. Some of the grapevines in Lanzarote are over 150 years old and are still producing huge quantities of grapes!
After this interesting and extremely thorough education about the grape growing technique we were shown other areas of the Bodega including the inside of the old house which is preserved as a museum, the area where water used to be stored, and the modern factory where the winemaking process now takes place.
Next we all sat down at a long table with three glasses in front of each of us. As you can probably guess we were about to try three different wines. Mike continued to impress with his extensive wine knowledge as we sampled the three distinct types.
The first was a dry white called Amalia Malvasia Volcánica. The second wine, Rubicon Semidulce, was a white semi-sweet which was made by combining two different wines, and the third was a sweet white wine called Rubicon Moscatel. The third was a lot sweeter and stronger and had an almost syrup like consistency to it. Of the three my favourite was the second. Along with the wine we were also given some cheese, gofio (traditional Canarian food) and raisins. Overall this was a very good start to our wine tasting tour, and we still had two vineyards left to visit!
Next stop was Los Bermejos a very different type of Bodega not on the main tourist trail, but with some delicious wines. This Bodega is very new in comparison to many of the others, having only been started in 2000, but according to Mike it is already considered one of the best on the island.
Whereas for many of the other wine producers you will find their wines on the shelves of shops and supermarkets throughout Lanzarote, Bermejos has gone for an entirely different approach. They have succeeded in creating a level of exclusivity by only selling their wines to restaurants and bars. In this sense there is a limited supply which has increased demand. As well as this they have decided to stick to a very traditional style of wine production, as might have been found in the past in Lanzarote which is somewhat ironic considering they are a new venture.
Due to the more unique style of these winemakers, they are not geared up so readily for tourism, so did not seem to have any kind of museum or grand buildings. In fact we used the same glass to taste three different wines. This didn’t matter at all though as we sat out on their beautiful terrace surrounded by the vineyards and unique Lanzarote landscape. As with Rubicón we were able to taste three distinctive wines at Los Bermejos.
The first wine we were treated to was a sparkling dry white called Brut Nature with 12% volume, made exclusively with Malvasia grapes. This wine was fairly good, but not completely to my taste. I preferred the second wine that we tried that was called Diego Seco. As Mike said this was completely different to other wines in Lanzarote. The taste was a lot more similar to white wines from Italy or France, so a lot more of a familiar taste to most tourists.
As Mike poured our wines he continued to tell us everything we could possibly need to know about wines in Lanzarote such as the tradition, types of grapes used, and the different varieties. There was a lot, and I mean a lot of information to take in. It was all highly interesting, especially if you enjoy drinking wine even every once in awhile. To really take in all of the information though, a second wine tasting tour would probably be needed. One thing that Mike explained to us was that due to the lack of tradition in Lanzarote for red wine, there would probably never be a fantastic red wine produced on the island.
The third wine that we tried was called Listán Negro, a red wine. There were only a few of the group that enjoyed this wine. It had quite a distinctive aroma and taste quite unlike red wines you can find typically from Europe. It was not a bad wine, but definitely not as pleasant to drink as the white wines that we had tried. Who knows though, maybe one day there will be a great red wine made by the talented winemakers of Lanzarote.
It was good to see that at each of the Bodegas, people on the wine tour were choosing to purchase wine. This was a strong indicator of the quality of wine in Lanzarote, and also good to see support for the Bodegas that we were touring. After sampling the three different wines it was time to hop back into the Land Rovers and head to the final Bodega on our tour, El Grifo.
This winery is billed as being the oldest in the Canaries, and one of the ten oldest in Spain! It has been a family company since 1775, so it literally has centuries of tradition. It is very different in its style and outlook though to Los Bermejos, as El Grifo are quite experimental with their wine production using modern techniques. You can also buy El Grifo wines in most supermarkets in Lanzarote.
First of all we had a look outside at some of the vineyard. This included seeing grape vine that was over 150 years old! It was massive and according to Mike is still going strong, producing large amounts of grapes! To be able to plant this vine, dynamite was used to blast through the thick layer of dry lava to get to the earth beneath. It was amazing how deep down the lava went. As you can see from the photos below, this grape vine is huge and considering how old it is still in great health!
Of the three Bodegas that we visited it was the most impressive in terms of features for tourist visits. There is a large and interesting museum, showing different stages of the traditional wine growing process that had been used for centuries in Lanzarote. For example Mike explained that some of the wooden barrels used to store the wine could only be used once or twice, so it was very expensive to keep buying these. To economise sometimes the owner of the winery would make their own barrels.
We were becoming short on time as we were a bigger group than normal, so after a quick look around the museum we were taken to try some more wine in a large room. One of the staff introduced the wines to us and then we were given a sample. First of all we were given a wine called Malvasia Collección which was a really good dry white wine. This was part of their exclusive collection that was sold to bars and restaurants.
Secondly we tried a wine called George Glas which was a very sweet red wine. In the UK this would be described as a dessert wine. There is an interesting story related to the name of this wine, as it is named after a Scottish man who travelled around the Canary Islands researching and writing about the custom of wine production on each of the islands. Unfortunately due to suspicions by the Spanish monarchy of him being a spy, he was imprisoned for some time. He wrote an important book during this time though called “The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands”. The wine itself was actually produced by a Portuguese intern who was working at El Grifo. He wanted to produce a wine in the tradition of Portuguese Port, as a testament to the Portuguese history in Lanzarote.
This last wine seemed to be a clear favourite among most of the members on the tour, as lots of second glasses were drank, and many in the group purchased one or even two bottles. It was not cheap either as this was the last of the batch. The next batch of this wine will not be ready for around seven years.
Initially the group had seemed somewhat shy of each other but after all the delicious wine, everybody was in great spirits and the conversation had become much more free flowing. We had got talking to several of the group, and the ice had been well and truly shattered. We were all very hungry by this point though, so it was time for a late lunch. We were all driven to the village of Conil near to Tias, where we ate a family run restaurant called “Casa Juan Ramón – Los Lechoncitos” which had stayed in the family for 30 years.
The food was delicious and included pork chops, papas arrugadas with mojo sauce, calamari, tuna steak, salad and even rabbit. It was a veritable feast and perfect after all that wine. We were given more wine during the meal though of course. To finish off we had some cafe con leche and biscuits. This restaurant is a hidden gem (it is literally within the garage of the house), and we would recommend it to anyone visiting Lanzarote! You can follow them on Facebook to find out more.
We were completely satiated by this point, but sad that the tour was coming to a close. We headed in the Land Rover to Playa Blanca to drop off the other tour members, then headed back to Sands Beach Resort in Costa Teguise with Mike. While on this return journey back we discussed more of the fascinating history of Lanzarote and how things are changing. It was also a good chance to practice our Spanish. It had been a full day as by the time we got back to the hotel it was about 6pm. Thank you so much to Lanzarote Active Club, we can’t thank you guys enough. We fully recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys even the occasional glass of wine, as the wine was delicious, the company great, and overall an amazing day out!
To find out more about Lanzarote Active Club you can check out their website here: http://www.lanzaroteactiveclub.com/